Happy Birthday YOSHI OYAKAWA !!!


1973 Honor Swimmer


Hawaiian Yoshi Oyakawa won 23 major titles in his remarkable career as the last of the great straight-armed backstrokers.  He won the 1952 Olympic backstroke crown at Helsinki in 1:05.4 finally breaking Adolph Kiefer’s Olympic record of 1:05.9 set in 1936.  Oyakawa won 6 Big Ten, 7 NCAA and 9 NAAU gold medals during his distinguished career under coaches Sparky Kawamoto, Hilo, Hawaii, and Mike Peppe (Ohio State).

Oyakawa started competitive swimming late (15), turned over on his back at 16, and was on his way to the Olympics at 18.  Yoshi went to his second Olympics (1956 Melbourne) as an Air Force Second Lieutenant, finishing 8th after breaking his 1952 Olympic record in the prelims.  Neither time was as good as his 1:04.7 to win the U.S. Olympic trials in Detroit.

After 2 years active duty this great backstroker and his Ohio State Sweetheart Mariko Yamane settled in Cincinnati where they have raised four daughters and a son and enough good swimmers at Oak Hills High School for Yoshi Oyakawa to be named Ohio High School Coach of the year for 1972.

Others have bettered Oyakawa’s 100 yd. and 100m world records but none since Oyakawa have done it going straight.  The newer bent arm techniques have left his records intact, as the fastest ever straight-armed backstroker.

Oyakawa marked the ending of at least one other era, the domination of world swimming by the Hawaiian Islands.  Their last Olympic champions were Oyakawa and Ford Konno in 1952.  Not since the six Hawaiians (including Oyakawa) swam in the 1956 Games, has one of the islanders made a U.S. Olympic team.

Yoshi Oyakawa (USA)

2017 Honor Masters Swimmer

INTERNATIONAL HIGHLIGHTS (SWIMMER): World Points-634, Pre 1986 Points- 11, Total Points-645; Since 1974, he has competed in 9 age groups (40-44 through 80-84). 27 FINA MASTERS WORLD RECORDS.

Yoshinobu Oyakawa, born on the Kona side of the big island of Hawai’i, was a swimming stand-out at Hilo High School. He continued his career of swimming though his college years at the Ohio State University under the great Hall of Fame Coach, Mike Peppe. While Oyakawa was attending Ohio State, he made his first Olympic team at the age of 19. He represented the United States of America, when he travelled to Helsinki, Finland in 1952. Yoshi did not disappoint. He won the gold medal in the 100m backstroke.

In 1956, Oyakawa again made the Olympic team, where, along with Ford Konno, he was elected co-captain of the US team. At that time, he was also a 2nd Lt. in the United States Air Force.

Yoshi is considered to be the last of the great “straight-arm-pull” backstrokers, and was inducted into the International Swimming Hall of Fame as an Honor Swimmer in 1973. Now, 44 years later, Yoshi is again being recognized by ISHOF, but this time, for his career in Masters swimming.

Swimming has always been a big part of Oyakawa’s life. Growing up in Hawaii, Yoshi says, the ocean, the rivers and the pool at the Naval Air Station made swimming an everyday occurrence for him. So, when Ransom Arthur started Masters Swimming in the 1970’s, Yoshi says he was first in line!

Even though Oyakawa started swimming Masters in the early 1970’s, he didn’t seriously pursue it until 1985. He has been in the Top Ten for a total of 28 times. He has set a total of 27 FINA Masters world records, 13 long course and 14 short course meters, all of them in the backstroke. He has competed in three FINA Masters World Championships, winning eight gold, two silver and one bronze medal in the backstroke and freestyle events.

Yoshi says that Buster Crabbe once told him many years ago that swimming was the BEST SPORT and the people involved became your BEST FRIENDS! HOW TRUE, Yoshi says!!

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